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Fall of Kabul: A Gain to Islamabad and Caution for New Delhi

History Repeats Itself and for Afghanistan history repeated itself after 20 years when the Taliban took over Afghanistan and marked the fall of democracy. Now a major question or anticipations which haunt the global order is how the pack of terror groups will mark their presence in Afghanistan in Taliban rule and how the wave of terrorism is going to flow.

The Two Players of South Asia

This critical geopolitical development will indirectly or directly have rippling effects on two arch-rivals New Delhi and Islamabad. The effect will be like that one would be on the caution side and one would be on the gain side. Amidst these two players, there is one more major player who sees reward in Afghanistan- China. Moreover, Russia is also keeping a closed view or only regional specific view over Afghanistan. Once things get settled and Kabul transits into the Taliban era the stakes of everyone would automatically start to function and when they start to bat their respective interests, the interactions of those stakeholders/countries with this reformed Taliban group is worth observing and especially its effects in Asian Region. But as of now, an anticipation of not worrying or casually setting an approach towards Kabul just on the pretext that this time Taliban have sophistically presented themselves in the power transit process would be wrong. Some central values that are majorly governed by fundamentalist and extremists views of Taliban will show its colours in due time. On the other hand, the takeover would be a confidence builder to Al Qaeda, ISIS who are dreaming for Islamic Caliphate. However, in any case, some of the highly speculated threats and gains would be possible to both former and later in the coming time.

New Delhi’s Caution and Islamabad Gain

Taliban take over would prove a chance for Islamabad to develop their strategic intellect against India in both unconventional and conventional wars. As history speaks that in the past Islamabad had cultivated covert relations with the Taliban and this time Islamabad would not leave any stone unturned in reviving those relations. Islamabad has a strategic depth policy towards Afghanistan this policy was mostly in the defunct state till Kabul was stable and Ghani was there though several attempts were made but mostly they were unsuccessful as New Delhi has smartly through its developmental approach kept Islamabad’s influence at bay but now tables seem to be turned as Taliban taking stage would kick start Islamabad’s strategic depth policy. In reality, Islamabad does not treat it as a mere policy construct but as a big military strategy against India. This strategy has two-fold and the nature of the strategy can be studied in both conventional and unconventional ways. In a conventional way- In event of war between India and Pakistan or any aggressive escalation, Pakistan would have an option to fall back towards Afghanistan regroup and then organize a counteroffensive against India. This would lessen the chances of damage or getting disorganized and Pakistan can easily avail resources and strategize the course of the war. This ultimately increases Pakistan’s rate of survival in war and give them chance to rally from Afghanistan. Now the unconventional side- it is well known fact that Pakistan uses terrorism as an instrument against India. In this strategy, Pakistan would now be using Afghanistan as a territorial pawn against India by shifting the terror bases around Durand lines or in interior regions of Afghanistan by mobilizing terror groups etc. In short, Pakistan would get a chance to revamp its terror modules and make it more effective by waging terrorism in more indirect ways (via Afghanistan) than earlier. The first target would be Union Territory J&K. Pakistan would try every possible means via Afghanistan to ignite trouble and create disturbance in the J&K. Like it used to do in the early 90s where the violence and terror was at its peak in the valley. However, there is one roadblock or a double edge sword that Pakistan might face is that keeping up the relations with Taliban. The Tehreek E Taliban (TTP) which is operating inside Pakistan is all out against Pakistan’s regime and in counter-response, the Pakistan Military and ISI had started a National Action Plan which involved a heavy military crackdown against TTP. This made some sects of the Taliban unhappy. Moreover, this strategic depth strategy would also give Pakistan a diplomatic advantage by giving Pakistan space to exercise its influence in the central Asian market and to Central Asian countries against India this goes for China as well. Therefore, given the TTP apprehension for Pakistan, there are high chances of frictions with Pakistan. Neither we have assertion on concrete basis that relation with Afghan Taliban and ISI would flourish well in coming time nor we have concrete assertion that how much Islamabad would hold or sustain on its Strategic Depth Strategy in near future. However, whatever may be the case New Delhi cannot outrightly ignore the possible red flags associated with ISI and Taliban or threats that may arise in the coming time because possibilities are high.

Options For New Delhi At Present Stage

New Delhi maintained its position of rejecting the Taliban’s objectives of making Afghanistan an Islamic Emirates and also rejected for recognizing a government or power which have taken over by force. For New Delhi given the present situation must exercise caution and carefully observe all the political and non-political activities taking place in Afghanistan right now even observe the influence of Pakistan which may have begun in the power corridors of the Taliban. From security and Intelligence point of view any hasty steps would complicate New Delhi’s both situation and options in Afghanistan and further harm communications/ Influence and assets in Afghanistan. Perhaps, ISI would want New Delhi to take any steps in panic which would contribute in shrinking New Delhi’s footprints in Afghanistan. It is very important right now for New Delhi to maintain its footprints in Afghanistan and not letting ISI take any tactical advantage at this stage. Alert, Observe and Response should be three golden rules right now for New Delhi. On the other hand, MEA should make every possible attempt to evacuate its citizens in distress or who wish to return and closely monitor its Embassy/ Consulates in Afghanistan. These are some primary working towards Kabul and rest as said observing and monitoring the situation in Afghanistan is key as it would give some inputs to New Delhi and help to build a strategic foresight on how things will proceed in Afghanistan and what all steps would be feasible to take in coming time.


The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do n